Compassion: Protecting Employee Health During A Crisis

Louis Brown
Executive Director
Christ Medicus Foundation
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March 27, 2020

Replying to NLI Staff, "Stewardship: Protecting Your Faith-Based Organization Through a Crisis"

For Catholic lay apostolates, the Coronavirus Pandemic raises urgent issues related to the spiritual and physical health of employees and persons whom lay apostolates serve.

Catholic employers can help their employees by:

(1)   Keeping them informed about the Pandemic and protected from the disease in the workplace consistent with the latest government updates and orders;

(2)   Assisting employees in obtaining primary medical care, especially through telemedicine services;  

(3)   Advocating for employees in their healthcare needs; and,

(4)   Staying grounded in the faith.

Employee Education

Catholic nonprofit employers should take steps to inform employees about the Coronavirus Pandemic and the precautions needed promote a healthy workplace.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has resources which provide Americans with straightforward and understandable information about the nature of this virus, the steps that should be taken to protect one’s health, and the measures needed to protect others. The CDC has also issued instructions for those who may be sick from this virus.

The following excerpt from CDC’s COVID-19 Checklist for Community and Faith-Based Leaders lists key practical steps for Catholic employers to promote a healthy and safe workplace:

·      Implementing flexible leave and attendance policies

·      Promoting daily preventative actions against the virus (frequent hand washing etc.)

·      Providing virus prevention items at the office (“soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and a couple of disposable face masks, incase someone becomes sick”)

·      Finding space that people can use if they are sick

·      Identifying actions that need to be taken if events are cancelled (especially for the elderly and vulnerable)

·      Updating the organization’s emergency operations plan

·      Developing an emergency communications plan

In addition to following these guidelines, many employers should consider requiring employees to work remotely, both as precaution and to comply with the growing number of state and local government stay-at-home orders.

Finding Catholic Medical Care

Catholic nonprofit employers should also endeavor to provide or connect their employees with Catholic primary care through Catholic telemedicine services. Especially where the federal, state, and local government health care resources are strained, Catholic telemedicine services are effective in helping to combat this pandemic.

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is medical advice and care that a physician or other medical practitioner gives to a patient by phone or video call.

As this pandemic has grown, people who have had various symptoms, which may or may not be indicative of the coronavirus, have wondered whether they have the virus and whether they need to be tested. For various reasons, many have had difficulty obtaining testing or obtaining medical care specific to their health condition. Especially where the federal, state, and local government health care resources are strained, Catholic telemedicine services are effective in helping to combat this pandemic.

How can telemedicine help?

Through telemedicine services, patients concerned that they have symptoms of the virus can obtain immediate medical advice from the safety of their own homes and take action if necessary.

If telemedicine services are part of the Catholic nonprofit’s health plan, employers should encourage employees to fully utilize these services.

If telemedicine services are not part of the employer health care plan, in the short term, Catholic nonprofits should seek to identify Catholic primary care medical professionals able to provide telemedicine services and inform employees accordingly. Longer term, Catholic nonprofits should explore options for adding telemedicine services to the organization’s employee health care offering.

Telemedicine on the Frontlines

Numerous Catholic primary care practices that conduct telemedicine services are illustrating the value of these services in times of crisis. As you read this post, Catholic physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals are engaged in heroic struggles to provide their patients with the care they need.

The following are just a few examples ofCatholic medical professionals rising to the challenges of the virus:

·      In the Washington, D.C./Maryland, Northern Virginia region, physicians at Modern Mobile Medicine, a private direct primary care practice that includes telemedicine services, have been working hard to provide patients with the care they need in person, by phone, and even through house calls. Because they started providing care directly to patients in 2016, they were well prepared to meet the needs of existing and new patients in the region during this pandemic.

·      In the Denver region, medical practitioners at Bella Health and Wellness have embarked on amazing efforts to provide medical advice to patients through telemedicine as well as launching a drive up practice outside their primary location even in the midst of snow and cold temperatures.

·      MyCatholicDoctor, a national Catholic nonprofit providing Catholic telemedicine services to patients across the country has launched a National Coronavirus Telehealth Response Program. MyCatholicDoctor has been an increasingly important resource and partner for the Christ Medicus Foundation.

Not only are these practices providing timely patient care, they are also relieving hospitals of the extraordinary increase in patients due to this virus.

Advocating for Employees

Finally, while complying with applicable privacy laws and respecting the wishes of each employee, Catholic nonprofit employers should advocate for the medical needs of their employees.

Due to the pandemic, the American healthcare system is under a strain that has not been seen in generations. Due to limited resources, a temptation within the health care system can arise in hospitals and other health care entities to make determinations about who receives care based on a belief of a patient’s ‘quality of life.’ The danger in making quality of life judgments about who receives care is that such judgments risk denying medical care to those who are the weakest and most vulnerable.

In this moment in history, employees who have medical needs urgently need a community of advocates who will accompany them in their suffering and will insist that employees receive the medical care that justice demands.  

Staying Grounded in the Faith

In all times and seasons, and especially during this pandemic, the foundation of all decision-making for Catholic nonprofit leaders must be the lesson of Divine Mercy: Jesus I Trust in You. Trust in God and his providence for “[n]o one who believes in him will be put to shame.” Romans 10:11.

Trusting in God and standing on the hope that He provides, one of the most immediate human responsibilities of theCatholic nonprofit employer is to keep their employees informed, assist employees in getting the care they need, and providing them with a Catholic community willing to advocate for their health care needs, all while accompanying them in their suffering.

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Louis Brown is an attorney and the Executive Director of Christ Medicus Foundation, as well as the chairman of Napa Legal Institute’s Healthcare Working Group. Read Louis’ full biography here.